Mystery angel leaves couple $1,000 miracle

Published: January 11, 2006 | 3247th good news item since 2003

Valerie Richards spent most of the weekend packing up, loading boxes in a red wagon and pulling it up Park Boulevard to a storage facility where she would unload before turning around to make another trip.

She was cleaning out her trailer at the Paradise I Mobile Home Park, which was closing Tuesday.

With no place to go, Richards, her husband, Robert, and their three kittens, Jasmine, Allie and Lily, expected to be homeless.

But by Monday afternoon, things had changed.

When Richards arrived at Thrift City USA where she is a supervisor, the clerks told her people who had read a Sunday Neighborhood Times article about her problems called to offer help and advice. Then a woman came into the store and asked to speak to Richards.

“She started crying,” Richards said. The woman told her, “I have a small gift for you. . . . Here’s a thousand dollars so you and your babies are not out on the street.”

“My mouth dropped,” Richards said. “I said, “That’s okay, but I’m not out for anything. I’m just trying to get the word out about the parks.’ ”

But the woman still wanted Richards to take the money. She did not want to be identified, saying that “an angel from God” had provided the help.

Shortly after, another woman called and offered Richards and her husband a duplex. Richards accepted and was able to pay the necessary fees with the money the first woman had given her.

“We’ve just been jumping for joy ever since,” Richards said. “I really thank everybody. . . . Things are working out so well for us.”

The Richards’ plight is not unusual as mobile home parks across Pinellas are gobbled up by developers who see the large tracts of land as perfect for condominiums and townhomes.

An owner’s representative said last week the Paradise I is closing because it is unprofitable. He said the park is for sale but had not yet been sold.

But Pinellas Park spokesman Tim Caddell said Monday city officials who asked about the possibility of buying the park last week were told it had already been sold and the new owner would take over in the middle of this month.

Steve Jorgensen, general manager of Park Boulevard Venture LLC, the property owners, said last week the land is more suitable for apartments, condos or townhouses than for commercial development because it is narrow and deep with little frontage on Park Boulevard.

Jorgensen said interest has grown in the property as the Shoppes at Park Place (the former ParkSide mall) has developed. The Paradise is across from the Home Depot and the former mall.

As places like the Paradise have closed, low-income renters and mobile home owners have been hard-pressed to find affordable housing.

That was the problem Richards and her husband faced until Monday. The two have no car, so they needed to be near their jobs.

She is a supervisor at Thrift City USA in Pinellas Park; he recently got a job at a nearby Wendy’s.

They travel mostly on foot or by bicycle. The bus system offers little help because Robert Richards gets off work about 1:30 a.m. when no buses run.

Published in Charity, Community, Life
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